While unstuffing your living space might seem like a daunting (or downright impossible) task, many quick and relatively painless decluttering projects can be tackled in small bites that don’t take too much time. These small wins can help build confidence without being too overwhelming, and just one or two small projects a week can add up to a big change over time.
PROJECT 1: Create a Collection Zone
Designate one area, whether it’s the corner of your living room or laundry room, the entry all, the stairway, or any other space that makes sense for your home and family, to capture all the stray items that need to be put away each day—shoes, books, toys, etc.
Use a pretty box, bin, or basket to collect all the items throughout the day and then schedule a time each day to empty the basket and put things away. A great way to remember to do this, at least until it becomes a habit, is to set an alert on your phone to go off a the same time each day.
For maximum success and lasting results, be sure to get the whole family involved in the process. Reserve ten minutes before bedtime for putting things away, or consider giving each family member their own basket for which they are responsible.
PROJECT 2: Clear the Counters
Chaotic countertops can make your entire living space feel oppressive. Cooking becomes a burden and a chore, and a thorough cleanup feels impossible. But it doesn’t have to be. Creating a clutter-free zone in the kitchen will make a huge difference for the overall feel of your home, and committing to keep it that way will transform the way you cook and clean.
Start by tossing out the obvious junk, whether it’s random paperwork, old food, broken dishes or appliances, or anything else no longer in use. Next, put away anything taking up counter space that already has a home. Remove everything that is left so that all counters are completely clear, wash them well, and then put back on the counter only the appliances you use more than once a week. Finally, consider selling or donating any items you don’t use regularly, or find new homes for items that don’t yet have a place.
PROJECT 3: Sweep the Surfaces
Even a clean house can feel cluttered and chaotic when every horizontal surface, every table and bookshelf and mantel and ledge, is covered with stuff. This can be true even when the stuff—books, picture frames, candles, figurines, vases, bowls, and everything in between—is intended to be decorative and pretty.
Even if you love your things, consider putting them away for a month or two, just to see how it feels. Do a clean sweep of every item on every surface in your living room. Take down all the items, box them up, and put the boxes aside for at least four to six weeks. Pay attention to how this makes you feel. Do you miss your stuff, or can you breathe easier without it? What items do you miss the most? At the end of your experiment, put back only those items you truly missed, and then sell or donate the rest.
PROJECT 4: Pitch the Pillows
Like surface clutter, throw pillows, blankets, and other soft goods that are meant to be decorative often end up doing little more than adding to the chaos. Consider this: Are your pillows really all that decorative if they are constantly on the floor?
I can totally understand your reluctance to let them go—I was the exact same way. in fact, it wasn’t until I lost a bet to my husband in which the wager was him tossing out all our throw pillows that I realized how much cleaner our living room seemed without them. If you can’t imagine getting rid of them for good, try taking them away for a month and see how it feels.
PROJECT 5: Manage the Media
Books, magazines, DVDs, and video games can quickly turn into a disorganized mess if not dealt with on a regular basis. If your media library has grown out of control, it is time to reel it back in and pare it down to only those items you will read (or watch or play) again. The rest has to go.
Pick one pile—whether it’s books or DVDs or magazines or video games—to tackle at a time. Gather all of them into one place and ask yourself, honestly, Will we ever read (or watch or play) this again? If the answer is no, get it out of the house. Sell it, donate it, or toss it, but get it out. Repeat the process with your remaining media until you’ve sorted through all of it.